Soft Robot Powered By Shape Memory Alloy Spokes
A remarkable new kind of robotic locomotion has emerged in the form of small "robots" that are constructed in the shape of a wheel. The spokes are made of a shape memory alloy; the rim of the wheel is made of an elastic polymer. Here's how they work, starting out with a circular shape at rest:
- An electric current is passed through a selected spoke. Shape memory alloy stores energy in the form of stresses in its crystalline structure. The current heats the spoke, releasing this energy, making the spoke shorter.
- The elastic polymer rim deforms as the center of gravity of the wheel is altered; the robot moves forward slightly.
- As current is withdrawn from the initial spoke, causing it to straighten, current is applied to the next spoke causing it to shorten. The wheel moves forward a bit more.
(From Soft Robot home page)
As this cycle is continued and developed, the wheel-shaped robot moves smoothly forward. The creators of the robot, Shinichi Hirai and Yuuta Sugiyama at Ritsumeikan University in Kusatsu, claim that by combining three wheels perpendicular to each other, a ball-shaped fully steerable robot could be created.
This invention reminds me very strongly of the Smart Wheels from Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snowcrash. The basic idea of smart wheels is that they consisted of telescoping spokes that altered their length based on road conditions, smoothing your ride over potholes and bumps by lengthening and shortening, respectively.
Update: 21-Oct-2016: The first time I read about the idea of a shape memory alloy was in Samuel R. Delany's 1966 novel Babel-17; see the entry for tensile memory polarized matter. End update.
Robotic wheels that just keep rolling and
Soft Robot home page for more information.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/3/2004)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 6 )
Related News Stories -
M-Blocks 2.0 Self-Assembling Robots
'Faster the cubes moved...' - Abraham Merritt, 1920.
Digit V2 Bipedal Robot From Agility Robotics
Oh, and now I suppose someone will develop the robotic porch pirate.
Hail SmartCan! Your Trash Bin Takes Itself Out
'...a waste can twenty feet away stirred into life.' - Harry Harrison, 1959.
Robot Tuna Swims As Fast As Nature's Tuna
'With one fluid motion, it surged forward, plunged, and was gone.' - Michael Swanwick, 2002.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Extremophile Microbe Loves Space Rocks
'... designed for rooting in the metal make-up of the asteroids for vital elements.'
Magic Mushroom Nose Spray From Silo Wellness
'I don't need help... that's not my diagnosis!'
CAV-X Supercavitating Ammo Deadly Underwater
'...in the midst of this fluid, which is very dense compared with the atmosphere, shots could not go far.'
Space Domes Over-rated? Science Fiction Authors Have Answers
'This was to be roofed over, sealed, and an atmosphere provided...'
Injectable Magnetic Fluid Slows Bleeding, Aids Magneto
'There's something different about you.'
Autonomous Wheelchairs Improve Airport Mobility
'Noiselessly, on rubber-tired wheels, they journeyed down the long aisles...'
HVSD, Kitty Hawk's Electric Plane
Very quiet commuter plane offers VTOL service.
Frictionless Toilet Could Save 140 Billion Liters Of Water
'The bowl was a frictionless surface...'
Viisights AI Hones Video Surveillance
'The math boys worked it out...'
Cybertruck The Solar-Powered Steel Tortoise
'It drew its power from... sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
Road Noise Charges Electric Cars With Peugeot Piezoelectric Billboard
''... major cities of Earth have free electrical power conveniently processed from their own noise.'
Unsinkable Metal Latest Gates Obsession
'A metal... light as cork.'
M-Blocks 2.0 Self-Assembling Robots
'Faster the cubes moved...'
NASA 'Broomstick' Recalls SciFi Ideas
'The appearance was enough like a giant witch's broom to justify the nickname.'
Orbital Display's Low Earth Orbit Advertisements
'A vast circle of scarlet stars came up into the greenish desert dusk.'
Neuromorphic Computing Hardare
'He had constructed an organ, a brain, of metal, entirely inorganic and lifeless...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories